punchy line

...and he (Simon Peter) saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the face-cloth ... not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself. - Jn 20: 6-7
-Jn 20: 6-7

Thursday, July 3, 2014

To the Young Woman Buying Condoms at the Store

Dear young woman whom I observed buying condoms at the store the other night,

You probably didn’t take much notice, but we just happened cross paths in the same grocery aisle when I was buying baby supplies which someone humorously located right across from the family planning section.

You were there with a girlfriend and you were on your cell phone.  You sounded a bit tipsy.

As I walked by holding my baby, I overheard you explain to your caller, “I’m trying to buy condoms here,”

I shuddered when you said that.  Judging by appearance, you must be at least ten years younger than myself. No wedding ring either.

Your girlfriend casually suggested buying someone else a box of condoms too.  And one for herself.  “Might as well,” you said.

My heart bled.

Let me explain.  I realize we aren’t personally acquainted.  I’m not here to judge you or belittle you or to lambast you with fire and brimstone over your personal choices but I am here to tell you one thing: you are beautiful.

Let me repeat that.  You. Are. Beautiful.

That’s probably why it hurt to overhear you that night, to watch you and your friend pay for your condoms and walk away into a night of sin.

I wanted to run after you and tell you how you deserved better than inebriated “safe” sex, to show you a card of the Divine Mercy, to introduce you to my one year old as an interactive example of what sex is actually meant for.

I wonder if you would have listened.

At the pregnancy center I see girls, no, young women like yourself who all made a series of decisions, perhaps starting with buying condoms at the store, only to wind up broken, isolated and regretful.  It’s nothing I would want for you or anyone and yet I failed to have the courage to dissuade you from your choices that night.

But if I had been more bold, I suppose I would have started with telling you a.) you are beautiful b.) that condoms are ugly, awkward things and c.)that premarital sex is beneath you and that you could change your life at any time.

Again, I wonder if you would have listened. Perhaps I could have shared my own experience.

I don’t know what condom-sex feels like, but I can’t imagine it’s better than the au natural.

You see, I only know what it is like to have sex with my husband without barriers between us.  By God’s grace I have been blessed to experience what it is to have a man cherish me for all I am and relish in the joy of conceiving child after child with me, and who desires all of me, including my fertility, in a passionate way.

My question to you, my dear, is this: isn’t that something you want for yourself?

I guarantee you, that stupid family planning (I hate the combination of those two words) aisle isn’t going to stock that degree of commitment for you.

And I promise you this: whether or not you feel what you are doing is wrong, I’m sure there is a question in your heart over whether there is anything more you are meant for.

I’m here to tell you there is.  There is a plan for sex for you and me and everyone.  It is, in fact a perfect plan that is moral, natural, satisfying, fun, pleasurable, marriage strengthening, life-giving and faith solidifying.

What’s more, you and I, in all of our imperfections and sinfulness have been made worthy of it because you are a child of God and again, you are beautiful.

Somehow, someway, someday I hope you will listen.  And I pray to have the courage to finally speak this truth in love to you.

Signed, your big sister in Christ who would gladly throw herself in front of a bus to keep you from sin, if she could (as would all of your anonymous sisters in Christ who are praying for you.)

Monday, June 23, 2014

Am American Camino (a.k.a Camino de Mickey D's)

After watching Martin Sheen’s “The Way” where Sheen’s character backpacks Spain’s famed pilgrimage route, the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, something crazy Catholic was…unleashed… in me.

My St. Joan of Arc fantasy crossed streams with my inner Spaniard missionary and I wanted to fly across the world on a winged stallion plane wielding my rosary sword passport in order to descend upon every pilgrimage site in Europe with the fire of a thousand tongues of the Holy Spirit behind me.

Then I thought, nah.

I’m an American.  With kids.  So what’s an American mom with a burning desire to make a pilgrimage supposed to do?

I know! Invent my own American “camino,” a driving one, and a route featuring churches and convenience stores along the way.

Except I didn’t have to dream up anything new.  We actually have a camino and we don’t even realize it.

So I’m calling it the Camino de Mickey D’s.

Not really.  Actually it's a route I traveled with my mom and kids that connects my parish in Santa Clara, California (Our Lady of Peace Shrine) to Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament and Our Lady of the Angels Monastery in Hanceville, Alabama (aka Mother Angelica and the Poor Clares of EWTN).

Believe me, we took our time, driving onlyaround 6 hrs each day with plenty of snack and bathroom stops in between.

Take a look at the map and list of stops and let me know if you’d ever undertake the American Southwestern Camino (or leave a note if you can think of another route from another region of our large, beautiful country)!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Ten Totally Lame Reasons NOT to Get Married

The Huffington Post recently dictated a forgone conclusion of my post-marriage generation in an article titled 10 Reasons It’sTotally Fine Never to Get Married.

Let’s explore their lame-o rationales, shall we? (Their arguments are in bold, followed by my comments.)

1. They say: Most people aren't in a hurry to get married anymore.
Quoth the oracle: “So, there's no need to stress about not getting married -- everyone else is staying single too.” And we know from experience that when everyone is doing something it must be okay.

Almost there....PSYCHE!
2.  They say: In fact, many people feel there aren't many advantages to being married.
And if un-married people feel that way, having never been married, then of course, they must be right!

3.  They say: For men, being married could be connected to being overweight.
All those demands of marriage can really cut into gym time.  How else is a guy supposed to burn all those calories from stagnantly watching professional sports all weekend?  You and I both know a real man isn’t going to give up watching his team.  Marrying his girlfriend, on the other hand…

4.  They say: Marriage can present a slew of financial problems.
This gem of a quote, “Another point: getting married can cause a single parent to lose student aid for their child.”  Wow. Just think of all those government incentives you’re missing out on by getting hitched!  Oh! Bring it on, profitable fornication (that’s Latin or Greek for what everyone else is doing anyway.)

5.  They say: Marriage can seem like an outdated institution, and some people just don't want to fit into that mold.
But the new soon to be outdated institution of staying single: that's okay!

6.  They say: Getting married can put your friendships at risk.
Hm. You know which kinds of friendships come to an end because you spend time with your family?  The ones weren’t really friendships to begin with.  No sweat there, good riddance.

7.  They say: Marriage can lead to the risky habit of relying on one individual for every emotional need.
Unlike cohabitation or dating where you risk ...relying on one individual for every emotional need.

8.  They say: These days, a happy marriage requires a serious commitment of time and energy that can be hard to maintain.  So why bother? Time, energy, commitment…pshah!  We should all settle for relationships that only require sporadic bursts of low grade energy followed by a tapering lull as you spend an indeterminate amount of life wondering whether or not it’s the right time to get married.

9.  They say: And, as dim as it sounds, plenty of marriages in this country end up in a divorce anyway.
So avoid becoming a statistic! Unless, of course, it’s the statistic of staying single.

10.  They say: Plus, there's a good alternative to marriage. It's called a civil union or a domestic partnership. 

It’s like marriage “lite,” or a “calorie free” beverage, which seems like a good alternative to soda until you realize that it’s is actually worse for you, is totally unsatisfying, linked to obesity, and overall, doesn’t really substitute for the real thing i.e marriage.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Why Everyone Should Have at Least Three Kids If They Can

If the title made you roll your eyes bear with me, I would have done the same a year ago.

I think it was a few minutes after dinner, when my older two kids were dancing and chanting, “What Does The Fox Say?” to the baby squealing with laughter in his high chair, that the fruit of my decision to have a third child twinkled like the bright joy issuing from the baby’s eyes.

This was not an isolated moment.  I’ve felt this way frequently over the last few months.

As someone formerly overwhelmed with two kids, it’s a complete shocker that I’m enjoying having three.  There were plenty of times when I was ready to throw in the towel convinced that God had erred when he created Mother (cue me waving my fist at Heaven shrieking, “You are so clearly a man!” to The Man, if you follow me.)

Having three kids is completely different.  Here’s why: the older two who previously only had each other to pick on are now channeling their energy into showering their baby brother with love…and lyrics from silly You Tube videos as I mentioned above.  Squabbling does still happen, by the way, I’m not saying having a baby is the magical cure to sibling rivalry.  However, an infant in the house does help them fight less over petty stuff like toys since, you know, the baby is basically the ultimate toy now.   Yes, we have to work on “sharing” the baby.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

In short, I thought my heart grew with every kid, but my trajectory of growth is not nearly as steep or magnificent as my kids’ maturity into loving little people.

Their capacity to be caring individuals has absolutely exploded.  And it is beautiful.  Suddenly, they are good kids.  Suddenly, I like them and motherhood more.

It might sound counterintuitive but for those couples struggling with two my advice is: have three. 

You will grow but more importantly and astoundingly those same two kids you are currently struggling with will grow.  You might just start enjoying them.

Parents with three or more, what has your experience been?

Saturday, November 30, 2013

A Magnificat for Tired Moms

My messy house proclaims the greatness of the Lord
My children’s bellies rejoice in slow cooker, our savior.
For one meal this tired, lowly servant rested.
Henceforth all ages will call me mom or mama or mommy
or some variation thereof.

The dishwasher has done great things for me
And holey be its watery jets.

Naptimes have mercy on all who take them,
For every generation fears mama’s cranky wrath.

Holding babies has shown the strength of my arm,
But nursing has scattered my brain.

Among other things I also clean the porcelain throne.
To do so, I have lifted up the seat.

My bank account was once filled with good things,
But my gas tank, growing children, ballet class, tuition, a family vacation and buying in bulk have rendered it empty.

But God has come to the help of his servant, this tired mom,
For the husband has remembered to throw out the trash and do recycling,
The promise mentioned “between the lines” on our wedding day,
To me and our future family forever.

Glory be to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,
Please God grant me the grace to do this another day,
And don’t strike me dead for writing this.  Amen.

Tired moms, what does your Magnificat say?

A Covered California Nightmare

Do you think that all the negative speculation over how bad California’s new, affordable health insurance exchange, Covered California is, is exaggerated?

If it is anything like how Covered CA’s current call centers are operating then be very, very afraid.

The following is a true story about one woman who did everything the call center operators told her to do.  That woman was me.

It all began on the website.  I clicked that nice, friendly looking, “Start here” button and filled out the application.  When I submitted I got this message:

            “Congratulations!  You qualified for $0 per month in premium assistance.”

Wait.  That meant that I didn’t get any help, right?  So why was I being congratulated again? I double-checked their scale and our income and household size met their criteria, so what was the problem?

Commence call number one, which, of course meant a “higher than average” wait time.  When I got a real person on the phone I asked why I didn’t qualify for assistance when I met the criteria.

            “You need to fax your husband’s paycheck stubs.”

Okay.  So I did.  And didn’t hear from them.

I called back a week later to ask if they received my fax.

            “Our fax machine has been broken. You need to send it to the PO box.”

Okay.  So I did.  And didn’t hear from them.

Call three.  Did they receive the paycheck stubs?
“Ma’am we have no way of knowing.  We are a call center in Fresno and that P.O Box is in West Sacramento.  We don’t know if anyone is taking care of that and they aren’t really telling us anything.”

So what should I do?  “Call back.”

Okay.  So I did.

This time though, I got someone who knew what she was doing.  Her name was Lwanda and she was very friendly. 

She said:

“You didn’t need to fax or mail your paycheck stubs in.  That was the old system,” (that ancient system of a couple of weeks ago) “Now we have a new system where you can just scan your stubs in.”  In short, I wasted my time following instructions.

She also educated me on peculiar facts about the application process such as how the plan was linked to the primary tax filer and if I wasn’t listed as the primary (which I am not – my husband is) the system would not allow me to pick a plan.

So Lwanda “fixed” my application so we could proceed.

Except that we didn’t pick a plan during that phone call because poor Lwanda was using a PC and the great state of California has chosen Internet Explorer as their browser, which means that each page takes two minutes to load.  And finally, Lwanda made a great discover on my behalf (drumroll): there was a glitch in the system.   A glitch.  A single technology error that stood between me and a Covered CA plan.  I bet you didn’t see that coming.  Oh wait, yes, you probably did.

The good news: I do actually qualify for aid!  The bad news: I’m going to have to start all over again and submit a new application.

Either that or wait a week for someone at the “help” desk to stumble upon Lwanda’s message about my glitch issue and actually drudge up the energy to do something about it. Yeah.  Not going to happen.

Remind me again how universal healthcare, if it’s run like this, is supposed to help me?  I’m very, very afraid.

What ending befits this story?  Only this: a letter I just received from them today that cheerfully reads (due to the aforementioned glitch):
“Congratulations!  You qualify for up to $0 per month premium assistance.”

Wonderful. So congratulate me.  Not only do I not get any tax credit assistance but I also get a Covered California nightmare to go with it.    

And the Mom of the Year Award Goes to..

And the Mom of the Year Award Goes To…

I believe a standing ovation is in order.

One befitting the scenario on that morning. Picture it:  one little girl crossing the threshold into her kindergarten classroom, her mother behind her.

Just as she is turning around to make a scene again, her expressionless mother closes the door on her.

And holds it there. 

Not this time.  Sorry, kid.  It’s time to go to school.

There’s no noise, no wailing or screaming.  (I guess the torture devices are not there that day). After a few moments, the pressure against the other side of the door stops.  

It’s safe.  The same expressionless mom scampers away before girl can run out after her.

“It’s all rainbows and sunshine and unicorns once you are gone.” That’s what the teacher said after last week’s meltdown.  All “rainbows and sunshine and unicorns,” after the flood of tears and the pleadings for mommy not to go.  A completely different girl once I left, apparently.

So no, sir, I don’t feel bad about standing on one side of the door and holding it shut while the girl stood on the other side trying to push it open and run out.

When I pick her up I ask cheerfully, “So, honey, how was your day.”  Bubbly girl replies, “I had fun, mama!”

Of course she did.

But wait!  There’s more! Fast-forward to later that same night. 
Who is that?  Why, it’s my little girl who is volunteering to set the table for the whole family.  And she is singing while she does it.  She’s singing “My Country Tis of Thee” no less, and making up her own lyrics to the tune.

I observe, “Sweetie!  How wonderful of you!  You’re such a big, helpful girl!”

“I am a big girl, mama! I go to school!” she says. 

So I guess the old “caged animal” approach to education does work.  True story.

And the mom of the year award goes to…not me.  But you are now free to give me a standing ovation.  Do you have any “mom of the year” award moments from the past week or month to share?